He’s done with burgers and fries, Garrett Fuller says to the camera in an excited voice. “The fact is that I can’t afford fast food anymore.” Fuller is known as a comedian in the United States and runs the “WayneCountyLyfe” channel on social media. And in one of his most recent videos, he complains about the rapidly rising prices of fast food. “One trip to McDonald’s right now, one trip, $30.”

The video has now been viewed more than 1.9 million times. For many Americans, Fuller’s comedic performance is not a joke, but a sad reality. Fast food has become a luxury in the USA. While sandwiches and chicken wings were considered particularly affordable in recent decades, regular visits to fast-food restaurants have become a financial challenge. Politics are also to blame for this. And the high prices are not the only problem – there are also mass layoffs.

In fact, fast food in the USA has become noticeably more expensive over the past few years. Prices have already risen by a full 4.8 percent over the past year, and by as much as 47 percent since 2014. This is shown by figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The prices of burgers and fries have therefore been adjusted upwards particularly sharply, as general inflation has only been 31 percent since then.

Fast food has become a staple food in the USA over the past few decades. According to surveys, three quarters of Americans recently ate at fast food restaurants at least once a week. Fast food was particularly popular in financially weak families, as it was often cheaper than home-cooked meals. While transport and storage drive up the costs of fresh fruit and vegetables, classic fast food ingredients can usually be produced cheaply.

Experts therefore suspect that the higher prices could have a major impact on the eating habits of many Americans. “Fast food customers are generally low-income earners, often with small children, who need a quick, affordable meal before soccer practice or a band concert,” commented analysts at the conservative think tank McIver Institute.

If the prices in these restaurants rise from $35 to $40 for a family meal to $65 to $70 within a few years, these families will have to stretch even further. Or simply forego going to restaurants, it continues. There are already initial signs of this. In a survey by the US credit marketplace Lendigtree, 78 percent of Americans surveyed now describe fast food as a luxury. Those looking for a cheap meal now mostly cook at home (56 percent).

The high price of burgers has become a particularly big problem in certain professional groups, such as American truckers. Truck drivers are among the group that is particularly dependent on fast food as a convenient meal, writes the Denver-based logistics service provider Iron Peak Solutions in an article. “The rising costs are a cause for concern for this professional group,” it says.

But there could also be an opportunity here. In response to the higher prices, there is a “growing movement among truck drivers towards a healthier diet,” the company explains. “The fatigue caused by a diet high in fat and sugar can impair the driver’s alertness and ability to react and increase the risk of accidents.”

In some places, it is primarily politics that has driven up the prices of burgers and fries. In California, for example, Governor Gavin Newsom raised the minimum wage in the industry last fall – by four dollars to now 20 dollars. The consequence: prices have exploded in the west coast state.

But that’s not the only problem. The high personnel costs have already led to mass layoffs, as a study by the Hoover Institute shows. Between autumn and January alone, Californian fast-food restaurants cut around 9,500 jobs.

“It is downright bizarre that California sets a much higher minimum wage for its fast-food industry,” says study author Lee Ohanian. After all, most workers are much younger than in other industries where the minimum wage is lower. About 30 percent of fast-food workers are teenagers, and another 30 percent are between 20 and 24 years old.

“Young workers have less experience than older workers and are still developing their skills,” says Ohanian. Both of these things limit the value of their work – which is why they should actually earn less. Some restaurant chains have already announced that they want to increasingly rely on automation – from self-service checkouts to robots in the kitchen.

This technology could also help the chains to control prices even better in the future. Kirk Tanner, head of the fast-food chain Wendy’s, recently announced that his company would begin “testing advanced features such as dynamic pricing and daily specials” in 2025. This means that depending on the time of day – and therefore on demand – the prices for the same products could differ.

Wendy’s later clarified that it was not about raising prices during peak times. Instead, it wanted to simply offer its guests discounts and special offers. Nevertheless, Wendy’s customers will probably have to pay even closer attention to prices in the future.

By the way, it doesn’t usually stop at the $30 from Fuller’s video. Employees at the checkouts of fast food chains are increasingly asking for tips for their service. And so many customers can add another 20 percent to the price.